'Second Sight - Editing the Harry Potter books with Cheryl Klein'
Editing is the art of putting the right information in the right order. The author creates the information—characters, settings, action, dialogue. The editor then works with the author to be sure that the author’s vision is communicated clearly to the reader. Sometimes this involves rearranging the facts, like switching around two plot events; sometimes this involves cutting facts, if they aren’t relevant to the overall argument, or adding more facts, if something that we readers need to know in order to appreciate the story fully isn’t yet present on the page. We deal with all these facts to create feelings: the emotional effects that the author intends the reader to experience, based upon the reader’s connection to the characters and the joys and challenges they go through together.
The Harry Potter series was an unprecedented publishing phenomenon . . . but it was also a book like any other book, that required attention to its character and plot development and language like any other book. Most especially, given the completeness of Ms. Rowling’s magical world, it was a series loaded with facts: the length of Harry’s wand, the number of Knuts in a Sickle, what floor the Department of Magical Sports occupied in the Ministry of Magic. As the continuity editor for the Harry Potter series in the United States, I helped manage all the facts on the last two books, while working closely with my boss, Arthur A. Levine, on the development of the feelings. This week, we’ll discuss the editing and publishing of the Harry Potter series, and some of the fascinations and difficulties of the editorial life in general.